Groups host congressional briefing to support lifting patient ID ban

The American Health Information Management Association and College of Healthcare Information Management Executives went to Capitol Hill on Monday to overturn a 20-year prohibition on federal funding for a unique patient identifier.

AHIMA and CHIME hosted a briefing for members of Congress to encourage Senate support for last month’s House amendment to the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act of 2020.

The Foster-Kelly amendment would eliminate Section 510 of the Labor-HHS Appropriations bill that prohibits HHS from spending any federal dollars on a unique patient identifier.

Also See: House amendment strikes down unique patient identifier funding ban

“Critical to patient safety and care coordination is ensuring patients are accurately identified and matched to their data,” said AHIMA CEO Wylecia Wiggs Harris. “The time has come to remove this archaic ban and empower HHS to explore a full range of patient-matching solutions hand in hand with the private sector focused on increasing patient safety and moving us closer to achieving nationwide interoperability.”

Correctly identifying patients and accurately matching their electronic health records as they are shared across healthcare organizations continues to be a major challenge for the industry, which has resulted in medical errors and deaths.

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“Those of us who work in provider organizations have seen the serious consequences of this ban on patients and their families,” said Marc Probst, CIO of Intermountain Healthcare and a member of the CHIME Policy Steering Committee. “Misidentifications threaten patient safety and drive unnecessary costs to health systems in an era when the industry and Congress are trying to lower healthcare costs. Congress has an opportunity to fix this, but only if the Senate also removes the ban on a unique patient identifier.”

AHIMA and CHIME, joined at Monday’s briefing by officials from the American College of Surgeons and American Medical Informatics Association, made the case that eliminating the prohibition on the use of federal funds to adopt a nationwide unique patient identifier would open the door for collaboration between HHS and industry to identify solutions for reducing medical errors while protecting patient privacy.

“Now more than ever we need a nationwide unique patient identifier to ensure that patients are correctly identified in our increasingly digital healthcare ecosystem,” said CHIME President and CEO Russell Branzell. “This is a top priority for our members. We applaud the House for taking a leadership role on this issue by removing the ban, and we strongly encourage the Senate to do the same.”

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